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Kindness of Survival Rachael Gray Hawk “So what brings you in today, Julip?” She smiled at the man’s greeting. She’d met him a few times before but each time she’d forgotten to ask his name. Lately, he hadn’t had his cabin open for people to trade with him. Things were getting a little harder to find and people were getting more hostile. As she approached his cabin earlier, she saw a large wooden fence built up around his entire cabin. She noticed that the door had been reinforced with thick logs that could slide down to bar the door in case of attack. All of the windows were boarded up. She highly doubted anyone could get through. But she’d heard stories of people with guns attacking seemingly harmless groups strictly to take their supplies and food. Better to be prepared than suffer the consequences on her trip. “Just getting some goods. I’m going west. Nothing but sand here.” The man nodded, looked out a small gap between the window boards, took her list of sundries and got busy sorting through various boxes and drawers in his kitchen. She gave the man a handful of baubles and trinkets, small items such as fuses and batteries that were worth money in the Arid. In return he gave her a potato sack of her supplies. He even threw in some extra sup- plies. He wished her good luck on her travels. Julip had been alone since the beginning; she was used to it. But ever since the rain came back, there were more groups of people out and about scavenging for food and supplies. Game animals were hard to find. They seemed to be out in the early hours and at dusk. Nearing the small makeshift shelter Julip called, “Hey!” She had taken in what she thought was a dog. It had been emaciated and caked in mud, probably to relieve itself from fleas and gnawing flies. He must have come to the base of the mountains in search of food. He had only been a pup when she stumbled upon him. She couldn’t abandon him there. It wasn’t until after she bathed him and shared what little vittles she had, he looked more and more like a timber wolf. Timber’s ears perked up when he heard her approaching. His bright yellow eyes caught her movement. He jumped up and down but never moved from his lookout position in front of their improvised lean-to. “What are you up to, huh?” she said, scratching his ears and face. His bushy tail wagged back and forth like a great feather duster. The wolf’s keen nose found the bag of dried meat she’d traded for. “Bet you’re hungry, huh?” In anticipation Timber sat and patiently waited to be given his share. “We’ve got to get a move on, Tim. Let’s make for the mountains. It’ll be much cooler. Bet we’ll actually find game.” In response, Timber nodded and licked Julip’s face as she looked at the horizon where mountain peaks jutted above a canopy of clouds. She had heard about better hunting in the mountain passes. “It looks so far, but we’ve got to try.” A week into their journey, Julip and Timber started to see more greenery and more bodies of water. However, travelling through the depleted flats of Utah, they both were thin and exhausted. Eating the occasion- al weasel or rabbit didn’t fill their bellies. Julip couldn’t remember the last time they felt full. They continued on until sunset, finally coming across thick grasses and trees. They were nearing the part of the mountains that she had heard were plentiful and safe. Suddenly the hackles on Tim’s neck rose. He started to growl, low and threatening. Julip cautiously took her bow and readied an arrow. Aiming down her sights she shouted, “Hello?” She could hear footsteps, breaking twigs and crunching leaves. Tim’s growls started to turn fierce; his fangs were dripping with saliva. As they approached a thicket, Julip could smell smoke. Someone was camped nearby. She was suddenly aware how chilly it was getting. Tim quieted down but his fur stood on end. Through the brush, Julip could see a small cabin, most likely only one room. There was chopped firewood and a hand-dug well. Someone had been here a while. The smell of cooking meat filled the air. Timber whined and Julip licked her cracked lips. 26